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Facing Some Of The Highest Rates In The Nation, Connecticut’s Electric Customers Struggle

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For the past decade, Connecticut’s residential electric customers have paid bills that are among the highest in the continental United States, but there isn’t one grand explanation for Connecticut’s sky-high electric bills.

The reality is more complicated, said Joseph Rosenthal, an attorney with the state Office of Consumer Counsel. 

“It’s a hundred different things,” Rosenthal said.

Here’s one example: economics. Connecticut’s salaries are above the national average. But layered on top of that, Rosenthal said, are bigger economic trends: like a decline in industrial electric customers. 

Those are the big-time manufacturers who used to suck up lots of electricity, which helped to offset costs for residents. 

“We have less industrial load then we used to,” Rosenthal said. “It can make electricity cheaper for everybody when you a high-revenue customer like that.”

Then there are resource issues. In-state wind and hydro are bad or non-existent. Nearly 40 percent of Connecticut’s electric consumption comes from natural gas, but there is an issue there, too.

“All the natural gas that comes here has to come from somewhere else, typically from an interstate pipeline,” Rosenthal said.

All that combines to make for high prices. Really high prices. 

According to the federal Department of Energy, Connecticut has the highest average retail electricity price among the lower 48 states. 

That’s creating an affordability problem, said Taren O’Connor, an associate rate specialist at the Office of Consumer Counsel. 

“We have a pretty high number of consumers in Connecticut that are not able to pay their electric bill,” O’Connor said. 

For Eversource, about 1 in every 5 residential consumers was behind on their electric bill, as of spring 2018. 

Ratepayers at the state’s two big utilities, Eversource and UI, owed a collective unpaid balance of more than $180 million.

O’Connor says those hardship numbers have, unfortunately, not gone down in recent years.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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